The advertisement materialized on Craigslist just over a week ago. “Wanted 1966 Mustang Convertible, $1 (marietta ga),” it said. Its author, Elrey “Bud” Runion, had driven that car when he got back from the Vietnam War decades ago, reports said on Tuesday, and now he wanted to drive one again. “Prefer red or black interior and top … with an automatic. Call or text Bud.”
A short time later, he got a message, which took him and his wife three hours south of their Atlanta suburb to meet a prospective seller. There, they allegedly met a man authorities have now charged with their murders. Police found their GMC Envoy submerged in water, and their bodies nearby.
On Tuesday, authorities announced how the couple was killed: Both were shot in the head. Local authorities have charged Ronnie “Jay” Towns, 28, who went before a judge on Tuesday, with murder and armed robbery.
Now, as news reverberates across Atlanta’s sprawling suburbs, many who knew the Runions are having trouble reconciling the couple’s peaceful, charitable lifestyle with their violent deaths. “He said, ‘You can’t take money with you when you’re gone,'” the couple’s daughter, Brittany Patterson, told the Associated Press. “You might as well spend and enjoy it.”
Indeed, Runion had a long history of giving, especially when a tornado ravaged Alabama in 2011. “I am collecting good used furniture, kitchen tables, sofa and chairs, etc for families that lost all they owned in the Rainsville, Alabama tornado last may,” he wrote in one chat group, asking for help. “These people were renters without insurance. I almost have a load, but would like to do a little more.”
On Tuesday, their alleged killer, Ronnie “Jay” Towns, appeared in Telfair County Court, where a judge denied his bond and he was hauled off in cuffs and a striped prison uniform. Pictures show him staring straight ahead, hair disheveled and face patched with scruff.
His family is just as surprised, reports showed, about his alleged involvement as the Runion’s friends were at their deaths. Father Ronnie Towns Sr. denied the allegations against his son, according to an interview with WSB-TV. He said his son hid from police because he was scared police were after him.
“I’m in total shock,” Towns’s aunt said. “I can’t believe it. There’s no way, absolutely no way that I believe Jay did this.”
The house he shared with his wife and daughter, WSB-TV reported, was dark on Tuesday, and no one answered the door. “I just want them to know that I don’t want them to place any blame on my brother at this moment until there’s proof, there’s evidence for everyone out there,” Angalena Towns said.